Parliament to quash pulp mill legal challenge

STATE Parliament looks set to be recalled before the election to consider new legislation that would quash a legal challenge to the pulp mill, as the Gunns receiver revealed it was in talks with six interested buyers.

Premier Lara Giddings is expected to announce the bold move tomorrow when she will also sack the two Greens ministers from cabinet and name the state election date.

The Examiner understands the new legislation will clarify the pulp mill's permit conditions to thwart a green group's attempt to have the permit declared invalid through the courts. 

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust launched Supreme Court action two years ago, arguing the state government permits had lapsed because Gunns had failed to ``substantially commence'' work. 

It is believed receiver KordaMentha has raised the issue with the government and the newly formed major projects cabinet subcommittee has been working on ways to address it. 

A government source yesterday told The Examiner the Premier was ``strongly considering'' recalling Parliament to strengthen the permits. 

``She knows that right now, there are 20 votes on the floor of the lower house (10 Labor, 10 Liberal) that back to the hilt this project going forward,'' the source said.

``Provided the Liberals don't go weak at the knees or try getting some sort of political advantage by risking a $2.5 billion project, then the Premier is leaning towards getting the job done to underline the permits and give certainty to potential buyers, rather than risk it all crashing down on a whole heap of unknowns after the election.''

Recalling Parliament is not without risk, though, as it will give the state opposition a chance to move a no-confidence motion in the government when Labor can no longer rely on support from the Greens. 

KordaMentha yesterday released an update on the Gunns assets sale process, revealing six parties would proceed to the second stage, but not all are looking at the pulp mill. 

``Some of the parties in the final six are interested in the pulp mill opportunity, while others are only interested in the wood-chipping business and associated assets,'' it said.

Potential buyers are expected to submit final bids by the end of March. 

Interest in the failed timber companies assets has come from the Asia Pacific region, Europe and the Americas.

Ms Giddings said the major projects sub-committee had met last week to consider whether the pulp mill permits were still live. 

``The government is willing to consider all options to secure this major investment and create jobs for Tasmanians,'' she said yesterday.

Lara Giddings

Lara Giddings


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